Big Sam knows getting Black Cats to purr is no small task

LONDON • While Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp will steal most of the headlines this weekend, new Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce returns to the Premier League facing arguably the toughest challenge of his career.

The Black Cats, second from bottom, turned to Allardyce after Dick Advocaat quit, making him the first man to take charge of bitter north-east opponents Newcastle and Sunderland.

Allardyce, who left West Ham at the end of last season, has a well-earned reputation for helping clubs punch above their weight.

But Sunderland have failed to win any of their first eight matches and defeat in his debut at struggling West Bromwich Albion would be a hammer blow.

"Every game is enormous for us," Allardyce said.

  • SAM CALLS THE SHOTS

  • New Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has never been relegated from the Premier League and tends to make fast starts. Can he help the 19th-placed Black Cats climb out of the relegation zone soon?

    Here is a look at the points he put on the board after taking charge of his previous clubs.

  • WEST HAM (CHAMPIONSHIP, 2011)

    First six games: LWWDWW, 13 points

    When he took over: Was appointed in the close season, inheriting a team that got relegated.

    How they finished the season: Third (promoted to the Premier League via play-offs)

  • BLACKBURN (PREMIER LEAGUE, 2008)

    First six games: WDDWDD, 10 points

    When he took over: 19th in December

    How they finished the season: 15th

  • NEWCASTLE (PREMIER LEAGUE, 2007)

    First six games: WDDWLW, 11 points

    When he took over: Was appointed in the close season.

    Situation when he left them: 11th after 24 games

  • BOLTON (FIRST DIVISION, 1999)

    First six games: LDWWWW, 13 points

    When he took over: Ninth in October.

    How they finished the season: Sixth

"We will have to be consistent, we will have to be resilient, we will have to be mentally tough in terms of believing in ourselves to try to get ourselves out of this position.

"In all honesty, winning three games on the trot is going to be very difficult for us but it would be three games winning on the trot before we would even consider ourselves being able to start to feel a little bit safe. Even if we win the game at West Brom, it's a nice start... but we are still in that position."

Sunderland go into today's clash five points adrift of safety.

And like predecessors Paolo di Canio, Gus Poyet and Advocaat, Allardyce will face Newcastle in his second game in charge.

Di Canio, Poyet and Advocaat all enjoyed success in their first Tyne-Wear derby after losing their first match.

Allardyce is keen to buck the trend by getting off to a good start.

"Looking forward to the Newcastle derby will be a lot easier, a lot better for me, if the lads can go out and get a result at West Brom," said the former Sunderland player.

Only Newcastle are keeping Sunderland off the foot of the table.

And the winless Magpies suffered another setback when Netherlands goalkeeper Tim Krul was ruled out for the rest of the season.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2015, with the headline 'Big Sam knows getting Black Cats to purr is no small task'. Print Edition | Subscribe